Story Behind the Image: Monolith, The Face of Half Dome

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On the chilly spring morning of April 10th, 1927, Ansel Adams set out along Yosemite’s LeConte Gully to capture an image of the striking sheer face of Half Dome, one of Yosemite National Park’s most iconic natural features. Though Ansel knew the route well, having spent four teenage summers as the keeper of the Sierra Club’s nearby lodge in Yosemite Valley, his companions—his fiancée Virginia Best and three close friends, including his lifetime friend and fellow wilderness photographer Cedric Wright—picked carefully along the steep gully in the icy shadow of nearby Grizzly Peak.

Canyon de Chelly from White House Overlook, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona, 1942

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On first traveling to Canyon de Chelly in 1937, only six years after its establishment as a national monument, Ansel Adams thought it to be the most beautiful place on earth. Astonished by the “beautiful, flowing patterns” of the sand dunes, he wrote to his wife, Virginia Best:
Ansel Adams, “Chinese Baptist Kindergarten”

Ansel Adams’ Most Famous Rookie Mistake

Today, it’s hard to imagine that one of America’s most celebrated photographers ever struggled to find work shooting photographs. But in the beginning, Ansel Adams was, like most young photographers, unknown, and in order to support himself as a photographer, he took on work as a commercial photographer.

Mount Ansel Adams, Lyell Fork

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This branch of the Merced River, the Lyell Fork, is one of the most far-flung regions of Yosemite National Park. To reach this secluded spot, intrepid hikers must traverse many miles of trail before veering off to bushwhack down an exposed ridgeline to grasslands below...
Ansel Adams, “Unicorn Peak, Thunderclouds”

“Unicorn Peak, Thunderclouds” by Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams captured this phenomenal image of “Unicorn Peak, Thunderclouds” with his medium format camera around 1967 in late spring or early summer. He was sixty-five at the time, and was hiking across Tuolumne Meadows with his Hasselblad when he discovered this view.
Ansel at LeConte Lodge, Yosemite Valley, California, c. 1921. Collection of Michael and Jeanne Adams.

Upcoming Event in Yosemite National Park: Rebecca Senf Discusses Making a Photographer: The Early Work of Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams first arrived in California’s Yosemite Valley as a shy, home-schooled fourteen-year-old boy in 1916. How did this young tourist, with a Box Brownie camera in hand, become an accomplished mountaineer and one of the most recognizable photographers of the twentieth century?

Mt. McKinley Bears Invade Ranger Cabin

Ansel and his son Michael arrived at Mt. McKinley National Park on the infamous "Moose Gooser", the Alaska Railroad that ran from Fairbanks...
Mount McKinley at Wonder Lake, 1948, by Ansel Adams

Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake

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Ansel Adams’ “Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake” is one of the defining images of the Alaskan Wilderness. Ansel made this image when he, accompanied by his son Michael, set out in 1947 on a Guggenheim Fellowship to document the majestic landscapes of Alaska

Upcoming Event in Yosemite National Park: Rebecca Senf Discusses Making a Photographer: The Early Work of Ansel Adams

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Please join us on April 17, 2020 for a Yosemite evening celebrating Rebecca Senf’s new book, “Making a Photographer: The Early Work of Ansel Adams.